It’s inevitable, friends. You, me, and everyone else–we’re all going to die eventually.Some of us are more comfortable with that fact than others, and some are so fascinated by death that they’ll spend years of time, resources, and research writing about death and dying. These are ten perspectives taken from scientists, morticians, doctors, and forensics experts. Any one of these titles would be an excellent introduction to the one subject that touches us all.
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach: Roach tackles worldwide methods of disposing of bodies after death. This fascinating romp tackles everything from lab cadavers to cremation to crash testing to cannibalism.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty: Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.
Remember Me by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen: Journalist Lisa Cullen travels around the United States revealing the myriad ways that the funeral industry is changing in the era of the baby boomers.
Driving with Dead People by Monica Holloway: A remarkable memoir of Monica’s experiences growing up in a dysfunctional family and seeking refuge in the home of her best friend Julie, the daughter of the town mortician. Together, Monica and Julie get a job driving the hearse to pick up bodies from the airport. As Monica strikes out on her own, she discovers that independence still comes at a cost.
The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch: Written by a man who is both a poet and an undertaker, this book delves into death and its stories in ways that are both shocking and calming.
Last Breath: Cautionary Tales from the Limits of Human Endurance by Peter Stark: A blend of adventure and science that looks at the last moments of life. Peter Stark takes us through what happens to bodies and minds when faced with extreme physiological hardships.
Death’s Acre: Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab The Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales by William M. Bass: World-renowned forensic anthropologist, William Bass, takes us into his forensic lab to explore some of his most intriguing cases.
Final Exam: A Young Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality by Pauline W. Chen: Transplant surgeon, Pauline Chen, confronts the delicate balance between life and death as she writes about her experiences learning to be a surgeon.
The Bone Detectives: How Forensic Anthropologists Solve Crimes and Uncover Mysteries of the Dead by Donna M. Jackson: Especially for young readers, this book delves into how forensic anthropologists are able to use bones, when nothing else remains, to determine a person’s sex, height, age, race, weight, and cause of death.
Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death by Jessica Snyder Sachs: Despite a vast array of high-tech equipment, determining when a person died is challenging and elusive. However, plants, chemicals, and insects found near dead bodies are proving to be more adept at revealing time of death than their high-tech counterparts. This book takes us on a journey with entomologists, anthropologists, biochemists, and botanists as they use science and nature to unravel intractable cases.